Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Resurrection of the Faith


Jn.8: 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Contained in this statement from our Lord is the very basis for our faith. Yes, it proves the deity of Christ and His eternal existence, but it goes further than that. You see Jesus wasn’t just interested in some study of Christology. And Jesus was not just a representative of God the Father. Jesus came to die and in that death would be two interconnected and eternal truths. And both these truths are foundational and in a mystery they are actually one and the same. Jesus is the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world, and Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the church.
Listen carefully to what I am going to say. It is not enough to believe in the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross and that only through faith in Him can eternal life become possible. That, of course, is foundational and nonnegotiable. But it must also be foundational that Jesus is the Head of the church and what he taught are commands to His church. In many ways the evangelical church has embraced the former and compromised the latter. But Jesus is not only Lord of our salvation, but He must be Lord of our new lives.
And given the current state of the church we are in desperate need of a spiritual resurrection of the faith which believes in and also follows Jesus. If you believe we can tweak the current church system and please God you are greatly mistaken. The situation is so dire and has taken a self serving journey which is so far from Jesus that to return to a Christ centered experience and practice is a monumental task. In fact it requires a level of repentance most of us have never known. We have experienced a repentance which is aimed at unkind words or some sinful habit or other personal attitudes.
But this repentance is the portal through which we return to the true faith which follows Jesus and His teachings. And to follow Jesus without following His teachings is to not follow Him at all. That sounds so simple and it sounds like something you might hear in a sermon, and in reality it is. It is something we have heard. But through the years the essence of that truth has been lost within a maze of religious rhetoric, ecclesiastical organization, and the power of a fallen culture. And the repentance necessary to begin a return must begin with a profound seeking of the Spirit which begs Him to open your eyes. And as you beseech Him for such an awakening you must first place everything on the table. Nothing can be stored or defended or protected from His searching power.

And that is just the beginning of a painful yet marvelous journey. Ok, you ask, just what are you saying here? I am saying the western church for the most part believes in Jesus the Savior of our souls, but it no longer follows Him.

In magic, especially cards tricks and the like, the move known as the “sleight of hand” is employed. It uses misdirection and an amazing dexterity to imprison the eyes and build upon what the mind understands as normal and real and then reveals the unexpected and the unexplained through confounds normal logic. And false teachings use the sleight of truth by misdirection and reason. I have heard preachers quote some portion of Scripture and then lead his audience to a well known reality in their lives, and from there he takes some spiritual and eternal truth and cleverly hides it within an earthly truth. And then he teaches an earthly truth as if it were an eternal truth. The switch had been made, and because the hearers can identify with that earthly truth and because the speaker has used his personality and persuasiveness to elicit affection and trust, the hearers understand the connection he is making and they embrace it as God’s truth.
And there is a tangible psychological phenomenon evident here as well. An audience desires to be approved of by a speaker who they recognize as wise and a profound spiritual conduit. They naturally listen eager to understand and enter into agreement which subtly allows them to feel they understand on the speaker’s level. So when the speaker says something and then looks at the people expectantly they respond regardless if they fully grasp what he is saying. In fact you will hear some speakers say, “I wish I could get a witness in here tonight!” or “You’re not hearing what I am saying!” which is also a psychological tool meant to nudge the audience forward into full and even effervescent agreement with the speaker. I mean who wants to be left behind and seem ignorant?
In the end that speaker can almost preach Popeye and the crowd will clap for joy and more importantly empty their wallets. The speaker has used all kinds of different truths and made unholy alliances with earthly logic and Scriptural truth and he now leverages them to control the listeners. The speaker has used a sleight of truth and by the power of his personality and performance he has cleverly and pleasantly deceived the people.
And this is what has happened in the western church regardless of how orthodox they are in theology. The church is Christocentric in is soteriology (doctrine of salvation) but Christ and His teachings are no longer embraced in understanding and practice. The switch has been made by cleverly directing our eyes to orthodox doctrines about Jesus and about salvation while deftly discarding the full weight and implications of His teachings as they apply to the lives of believers. This is a deep and serious issue if we are to take the faith seriously. Can we embrace Jesus as the I AM for salvation and then walk in WE ARE after salvation?
The western church for the most part believes in Jesus the Savior of our souls, but it no longer follows Him. But do not assume that once you reach that conclusion that you immediately are following Jesus. Oh no, my friend, your journey has just begun. And this journey back to Jesus will be filled with many levels of repentance, many levels of humility, many levels of sorrow, many levels of joy, many levels of understanding, many levels of confusion, many levels of correction, many levels of glory, and in the end you will recognize that this journey will only end when you leave this life and enter the life to come. And then I believe we will enter a completely different journey filled with many levels of worship for all eternity. Oh my...dear Jesus.
If we are honest and do a complete and thorough examination of everything the church practices and how the professing believer lives against the foundation of the literal teachings of Jesus what will we find? Of course I do not expect the church at large to even entertain the question, much less embark on such a quest. But there remains this issue in this modern church era. The industrial revolution gave birth to a materialistic culture and the average man was no longer a lowly farmer. Now people could make enough money to buy many things and enjoy the comforts of home, and the list of those comforts continues to grow every day.
And so under the weight of the culture the church began an inconspicuous shift in its belief system and practice. Many churches deemphasized doctrine while many others made doctrine their one legged foundation. And the casualties were the teachings of Jesus. One church reconfigured Jesus into a servant and entertainer of man while the other church admired Him in a gilded doctrinal cage. And the teachings of Jesus fell through the cracks and were absorbed by the religious culture. So the church was considered orthodox if their theology was Christocentric even if their practice was not. And that created a brand new view of orthodoxy.
I have posted nine chapters of a series I called “The Teachings of Jesus”. The first step is to recognize how earthly and self centered the church has become. The second step is a journey of many steps to read and absorb and understand and submit and obey the teachings of Jesus. Until we do that we are adherents of another faith and a partial Jesus. Let us all resurrect a vibrant and passionate and inconvenient search for Jesus in all His glory and through the prism of His eternal teachings.

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